A woman was killed Saturday afternoon when a landscaping crew mowed over her in Beard Brook Park.
Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Sharon Bear said around noon Saturday, employees with Grover Landscape Services were mowing the grass in Beard Brook Park, which sits just south of Yosemite Avenue along Dry Creek. Bear said a crew member was mowing and “noticed a body in the grass he had already made a pass through.”
The employee called 911, Bear said, and when law enforcement arrived, the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim has been identified as 27-year-old Christine Chavez of Modesto.
During the Modesto City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Dez Martinez with the homeless advocacy group We Are Not Invisible spoke during the public comment section about the incident. She addressed council members and city staff on behalf of Chavez’s father. She said the victim, who was unhoused, was asleep on the grass when she was hit by the lawn mower.
The Beard Brook accident took place the day after the city of Modesto transferred ownership of the park to E.&J. Gallo Winery. The city and prominent winemaker had swapped the 12-acre Beard Brook Park for the same amount of acreage along the Tuolumne River. In January, the City Council approved the trade, which was completed last Friday, as part of its efforts to create a river walk that follows the length of Tuolumne River Regional Park.
Bear said it is unknown why the landscaper, who was driving a John Deere tractor with a pull-behind mower, did not see the woman in the grass. Chavez was not in a tent, she said.
This is the second fatality in the city in recent years involving a crew cleaning up an area and inadvertently killing a homeless person. In August 2018, 32-year-old Shannon Bigley was crushed to death by heavy machinery operated by a Caltrans employee.
Crews had been cleaning up a homeless encampment along Highway 99 south of Kansas Avenue in central Modesto when a front-loader operator dropped the bucket onto what he thought was a pile of trash. But Bigley was inside sleeping and was killed.